Your Career

Westfield Breakfast Series Wrap up

26/10/2012

I always look forward to the Westfield Breakfast seminar series each year – they never fail to deliver and this year was no exception.

It’s interesting working with the variety of retailers we work with, those that are being driven by the need to be innovative in order to remain industry leaders and those that are perhaps too scared to take a risk, so sit and watch their business slip away through their fingers.

It truly is an exciting time for retail. I have and always will be passionate about retail. It is one of the only industries where every day you can guarantee one thing – change!

The breakfast, which provides retailers an opportunity to see, hear and learn about the latest retailing, trends and insights from retail industry specialists all around the world is an offshoot of the Westfield Retail Study Tour. Last week the CEO of the Super Retail Group Peter Birtles kicked it off, whom in my opinion, hit the nail on the head… “Yes there are challenges in retail, tough times, but we as leaders we need to send the message to our staff that we are doing well”. Continuous poor performance and slamming of staff for not reaching figures doesn’t do much for creating employee engagement and companies as retailers need to understand they need to engage with their staff before they have any chance at engaging with their customers. Personally being passionate about the human side of retail, what Mr Birtles was saying resonated loud and clear with me but there seems to be one challenge that many many companies still need to overcome and that is how do we change the perception of the divide between Head Office and Stores so that not every store based employee jumps at every opportunity to get to “Head Office”?

Why is it that there is power/prestige for like of better words associated with being at Head Office? If only those based at stores knew it really isn’t that glamorous sitting behind a desk every day…So the challenge for every retailer out there…. how do we empower our Retail Managers to feel like being at a store or restaurant is the most important role in the business as without store based employees no one at head office would have a job? Is it in their title or remuneration? How do we create the feeling so that every time a customer visits a store or restaurant it is like walking into someone’s home, where you feel welcomed and comfortable and looking forward to an enjoyable experience.

The impact of technology on our shopper has also meant that every business is being re-shaped by technology. Time is precious; we are all busy people, living in a world where we are all searching….searching for what you ask? Whether it be a restaurant, a dress, a bottle of wine, somewhere to take our car to be serviced, we are searching for the best deal, the best service every day.

So where does the human experience fit into the impact of technology? Martin Butler from martin-butler.com, who has retail in his blood, addressed this. Whist the technological impact of retail is certainly alive and kicking, we can’t forget the power of still having that “emotional edge” in business.

Reality is, no one is selling anything that you are not able to purchase anywhere else. Like it or not it’s true. We are all in the business of being chosen! It’s not about Customer Service it’s about Customer Care.

Martin talked about the future of retail being local, same day delivery being the wholly grail of future retail – “You shop, we drop!” He shared his experiences in working with John Lewis and their new Birmingham store in the UK where they took the approach “If it aint broke, break it – it’s the only way to drive emotional edge”. “If newness is important to your ‘edge’ then “surprise people”. It comes back to the most important issue is that the people at your stores are serving the most important people of your business – Customers.

It was interesting to hear Martin Butler mention “There is never a shortage of great people, only great companies for those people to work for! Apple, Virgin….. never find it hard to find the right people.” ….

It’s hard to summarise a 3 hour breakfast in a short post, but

Jon Stine from, Cisco also talked about the Digital world changing retail…..and gave a fabulous analogy of Who made Justin Beiber from technological perspective and how we pretty much view most things in the world today via a screen – whether it be our computers IPADs, Kindles, phone, TV at home, Train Timetable – we can’t forget we are living in a BYOD world ie: Bring Your Own Device!

My take-outs from the event –

Customer Care – Not customer service.

Challenge everything you know about retail and deliver the unexpected.

Mindset shift needed between head office staff from being too corporate and “ we are head office” to we are here to serve those at stores!

Store Managers – Product Consultants. Empower the people on the floor to create change.

Learn the value of being emotionally intelligent!

If I am fortunate enough to win even a fraction of the 100 million lotto next Tuesday night, I would happily purchase the remaining places on the Westfield Retail Study tour and shout my colleagues an experience of a lifetime. For those interested in reading about the annual Westfield Retail Study Tour and make the world your classroom – check out http://www.retailstudytour.com. Might see you there!